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Le Mans 24 Hours of Le Mans

"Foolish to underestimate" KCMG at Le Mans, says Howson

The Hong Kong-entered KCMG team is gunning for a second successive victory at Le Mans 24 Hours this year, and driver Matt Howson believes it can achieve this despite not running the full FIA WEC season.

#47 KCMG Oreca 05 Nissan: Tsugio Matsuda, Matt Howson, Richard Bradley
#47 KCMG Oreca 05 Nissan: Tsugio Matsuda, Matt Howson, Richard Bradley
#47 KCMG Oreca 05 Nissan: Tsugio Matsuda, Matt Howson
#47 KCMG ORECA 05: Matthew Howson, Richard Bradley, Nicolas Lapierre
LMP2 podium: class winners #47 KCMG ORECA 05: Matthew Howson, Richard Bradley, Nicolas Lapierre
#47 KCMG ORECA 05: Matthew Howson, Richard Bradley, Nicolas Lapierre
Pit stop for #47 KCMG ORECA 05: Matthew Howson, Richard Bradley, Nicolas Lapierre
#47 KCMG ORECA 05: Matthew Howson, Richard Bradley, Nicolas Lapierre
LMP2 podium: class winners #47 KCMG ORECA 05: Matthew Howson, Richard Bradley, Nicolas Lapierre, second place #38 Jota Sport Gibson 015S: Simon Dolan, Mitch Evans, Oliver Turvey, third place #26 G-Drive Racing Ligier JS P2: Roman Rusinov, Julien Canal, Sa
#47 KCMG ORECA 05: Matthew Howson, Richard Bradley, Nicolas Lapierre
#47 KCMG ORECA 05: Matthew Howson, Richard Bradley, Nicolas Lapierre
#47 KCMG ORECA 05: Matthew Howson
#47 KCMG ORECA 05: Matthew Howson, Richard Bradley, Nicolas Lapierre

Howson, along with teammates Richard Bradley and Nicolas Lapierre, took a conclusive win in the LMP2 class at La Sarthe last season.

A year on, Howson believes that despite the team having only run the car once since the 2015 WEC finale in Bahrain last November, they can be on the top step again.

“We had nine hours of track time at the Test Day where we could go through systems checks and component testing because we had not run for so long,” Howson told Motorsport.com.

“The first few hours was just establishing everything was OK, we then went on to evaluating the tyres because the Dunlop’s has a different construction and compound this year.”

KCMG has a new lead engineer for its LMP2 title defence with Adam Hardy replacing Greg Wheeler.

Hardy works for the Belgian Audi Club WRT team in the Blancpain GT Series but has replaced former Williams and Arrows engineer Wheeler for the team’s one-off 2016 Le Mans appearance.

“The team has integrated together really well after such a long break,” said Howson. “We got a good benchmark at the test day but we never really had the opportunity to exploit the new tyres performance wise.

"Last year we were one of two teams with the ORECA 05 (the other being TDS) but this year there are more threats.

"But, we are up for it and people would be foolish to underestimate us, because we have only shown a fraction of what we are capable of so far.”

Matsuda in for Lapierre

Howson, along with fellow reigning Le Mans LMP2 champion Richard Bradley, is joined by Tsugio Matsuda in the KCMG ORECA 05-Nissan this year.

Matsuda, who is the current Japanese Super GT title holder, has driven for KCMG in sporadic WEC races before in 2013 and 2014.

He replaces Lapierre, who will drive for the Signatech Alpine team in a similar ORECA 05 this year. “Last year we dominated, but 2016 will be very different,” continued Howson.

“The way I view it, and if the conditions are consistently decent, there are four cars that will be in the hunt – G-Drive, Signatech (No.36), TDS and us.

"It is clear the ORECA has an advantage here (at Le Mans) and we just have to get everything in place so we are able to really exploit our strengths.”

KCMG must use one engine only

The reigning LMP2 champions will have to defend its Le Mans crown using one engine for the entire race weekend, as they are an invited entrant and not a full season FIA WEC.

The penalty for an invited entrant using an additional engine at the Le Mans 24 Hours is a five-minute stop-and-go sanction.

“Ordinarily we would run on a programme centred around an allocation based on our FIA WEC programme but as we are not a season entrant we don’t have the ability to use more than one engine,” confirmed Howson.

Most teams will utilise a second fresh engine over the week of Le Mans practice, qualifying and race, but Howson believes it will not greatly affect the team’s chances of challenging for another win.

“We will have to do all the mileage on the one unit, we are a little limited, so we need to keep things fresh for the race itself. But it is not a major concern for us,” confirmed Howson.

“Other than that I think with all things considered we are looking strong.”

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